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White an Eye-Opening Prospect

by Conrad Brunner || Caught in the Web Archive ||

June 4, 2012

There is very little Royce White cannot do well on a basketball court. With point guard skills in a chiseled 6-8, 270-pound physique, the Iowa State forward may well have been the most complete player in the college game in 2011-12.

He was the only one to lead his team in scoring (13.4), rebounding (9.3), assists (5.0), steals (1.2) and blocked shots (0.9).

Judged by physical ability alone, he compares well with many projected lottery picks.

But White knows that will be only part of the equation on draft night. An anxiety disorder present since youth but diagnosed in 2008 could well damage his draft stock.

It isn't something he's trying to hide -- quite the contrary. White is using his platform to help educate the public about the disorder, as well as helping those who share it.

"I'm not ashamed that I have anxiety disorder and I hope that people do take it into account, not to be sensitive to it or insensitive to it but just know it and try to understand it and learn just like I am," said White, one of six players in the Pacers' first pre-draft workout Monday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

"I have anxiety and 18 percent of Americans have it, as well. I like talking about it because there are other people out there who need help and draw inspiration from athletes or whoever it may be that is talking about it."

The disorder kept him from signing with Kentucky, because concern about the flight triggered a panic attack and the trip to Lexington was canceled. He wound up at Iowa State instead, playing for former Pacers guard Fred Hoiberg, and prospered in the family-oriented environment in Ames.

"He went public with it a couple of years ago and helped a lot of people," Hoiberg said. "That's what I thought was most impressive about how he handled the disorder, was how many people he helped in the process. I can't tell you how many e-mails, or people stopping and talking to me about how he helped their kids that have anxiety. He would meet one-on-one with kids coming into our facility.

"He did a lot of good with that and helped a lot of people because of how well he copes with that disorder."

And here's how well he coped: Not once did White's disorder become a problem for the team or the program.

"I had him for two years and I never had any issues with him at all," Hoiberg said. "He's a good kid, he's a smart kid and his abilities on the basketball court are so unique I think whoever gets him is getting a heck of a player."

Though White is not a comfortable flyer, he has learned to cope. That's a critical, potentially deal-breaking factor in the NBA.

Asked how he deals with flying, White smiled and said, "Scared, that's how I deal with it."

"I just buckle in," he said. "Once I get on the plane and I'm in there it's not really as big of an issue. It's more going to the airport when I'm the most scared, in anticipation of the flight. Once I'm on the flight it's OK. I got my movie going, my music going, it's more how much energy I exert being scared on the way to the plane."

On the basketball court, there is no fear. White led Iowa State to a 23-11 record and its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2005. The Cyclones knocked off defending champion Connecticut 77-64 before falling to eventual champ Kentucky 87-71.

"Basketball, I've been playing so long now that's almost a comfort zone," he said. "In between the lines I'm as comfortable as anywhere else in my life because I've spent the most time there."

A troubled past that included disciplinary and legal issues that led to transfers in both high school and college (he originally signed with Minnesota) now seems distant as White prepares to embark on the next phase of his basketball journey.

The question for teams like the Pacers, who hold the 26th pick in the first round, is just how White projects into the NBA. He has frontcourt strength but backcourt skills. His game doesn't fit comfortably into any existing slots.

"He's basically a guard with a power forward's body," said former Kansas guard Tyshawn Taylor, who also worked out Monday and faced White and the Cyclones last season. "He handles the ball, he has great vision and he's a tough player. He's really good, man. When we first played against him we were kind of surprised and shocked."

White has been opening eyes on the basketball court with his talent for years. Maybe now, through his ability to confront and manage his anxiety disorder, he can open some minds, as well.

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